Alaska Offroad Warriors Competition Ends We Have a Winner
Well, the finale episode of Alaska Warriors has come and gone. Since the first article I wrote when this all started, it's been a grueling off road trip for the drivers, and a test of endurance for the vehicles. In the end, there could only be one winner as far as the grand prize, but just finishing is a win situation on it's own. (warning: spoilers ahead!). The driving team with the best time is what determines the winner. It's an overall time, of each days journey added up. And we're talking 6 to 8 hours a day of hard driving, off road, in the cold wet Alaska outdoors, with a lot of brutal terrain. The prize at the end was $100,000. But when you consider the government will probably take 50% of that in taxes, and you split it between a driver and co-pilot, you're probably looking at around $25,000 per person. Is that really enough to accept the challenge?
Like any racing, whether its Nascar, NHRA, or IMSA, it's the right combination between the driver (or in this case, the navigator / winch wrangler / helper) and the machine. It's a combination between the two that as a whole, determines what the outcome with be. This show brings out all the good and bad of both facets: mechanical and human.
Before we get into the people on the show, and that's one of the draws I'm sure, let's take a look at the vehicles and how they faired:
Toyota FJ55 "The War Wagon" - Despite it's age, this really was a "war wagon". She isn't pretty, but she held together, even though they had a slight overheating issue about halfway. Much was made about their tire choice, "boggers", but since they're natives to Alaska, and it's obvious that mud and permafrost are everyday things Alaska drivers have to contend with, they seemed to have made the right call. The vehicle had the right tires, good ground clearance, and a modest V6. Though it was probably the heaviest vehicle on curb weight. Driver skill in that native terrain seemed to help as well, although, from what I saw, they became stuck in the worst mud as bad as everyone else.
Toyota 4-Runner 1994 - This was the newest vehicle of the event. I wouldn't be surprised if it had A/C (but would you use it in Alaska?). Except for the modest suspension upgrades, the vehicle seemed to be bone stock. That team's goal was not to run hard and break anything, and I think that approach worked for them, and the vehicle. They did probably have the second spot as far as horsepower, with a fuel injected V6 under the hood, and they were able to use that to their advantage, either for the power to get unstuck, or on the open road. I don't remember them having any mechanical problems. (they seemed to carry less gear on their rig than everybody else as well).
Jeep CJ - What can we say? It's a Jeep. It's been modified heavily, and with the most powerful engine of all the vehicles, a V8. But being a Jeep, it has a shorter wheelbase than the other vehicles too (an advantage most Jeeps have always had). This was probably the most prepared vehicle to actually do what it was doing. I would guess it was the most modified from stock for sure. It's one thing to drive your daily driver in an off road event for money, it's another to build a vehicle that was intentionally made to go off road (and win). I think the Jeep was also the vehicle that had the most offroad gear hanging from their rig. Wow.They had everything but the kitchen sink (at least, I didn't see them pull that out on the show).
Toyota 4-Runner 1986 - The one advantage this vehicle may have had, is that it was probably lighter in weight compared to the others. It was basically stock, except for a lift and tires. Unfortunately, it was underpowered with a 4-cylinder. Not that it's all about the engine. Jeeps have four cylinders in them, as do Rovers. But with the long wheelbase, there was no way to turn that into an advantage. They also didn't have lockers, so with the vehicle being almost 100% stock, it would have been a rough time on the vehicle itself, and this event showed that. This vehicle was the underdog. That doesn't mean they couldn't have won though, because there are to many other factors involved.
Landrovers (2) - Two Landrovers were used, because the first one broke. Like a Jeep, they have a short wheelbase, and even a 4 cylinder is typically enough for them to off road with. Like a Jeep, they were used by the military. I would never discount a Rover in a competition. If you ever watched the Camel Series years ago, you know that those off road events make this one look like a casual drive through Central Park.
So there's my thoughts on the vehicles. That was the main reason I watched the show. I'm a gear head. I don't care much for the human drama. If I want to see that nonsense I'll get a lobotomy and watch TMZ all day. I am glad they had a variety of vehicles on the show to make it interesting, and I think everyone can see there are different approaches and advantages as to how a vehicle is made, and set up for off roading.
So what about the humans?
Butch & Bill - A good team, and they seem to be a couple of good guys. Butch seemed to face his fear of heights, and how many of us can step up to the plate and do that? He walked the walk and did it. It may seem like a silly fear to most of us, but we all have something we have to face sooner or later. (don't get me started on big hairy spiders). They were competitive, and Bill can drive, and for the most part, they were civil. Just two Alaska country boys.
Pete & Shey - My favorites. I love the way Pete is calm, funny, and easy going. Shey is the fire to his ice. They make a good team. I think for them, it was more about the adventure, the trip, and doing it together as family. They may not have won the big money prize, but I think they were probably the biggest winners of the event.
Ritch & Carl - I'm not sure about those two. Friends for sure. Considering Ritch had a bout with cancer, and this might be his last chance to do anything big, I get that. I think he enjoyed it, despite the stress of the event. I'm not clear on Carl. Not that he's a bad guy, but he's hard to figure out.
Brent & Scott - If you have brothers (and I have two), then you know exactly what goes on between those two. Just because you're brothers doesn't always mean you look at everything the same way. But no matter how much yelling and cussing there is, in the end, you're family. It'll pass. I think a lot of stress for them was that the vehicle just didn't have the ability, or the prep that some of the other vehicles may have had.
Jason & Glen - You know when your mother says, if you can't say something nice, not to say anything at all? I'll leave it at that.
Ok, so by now, you probably know that the Jeep won (Woohoo !)
But it could have been anyones race near the end. Machines break. People break. I think this was overall a good event. There were some great scenes of Alaska, it was entertaining, and there was some good off roading. There was no way to pick a clear winner, and I really thought it would be Butch and Bill. I think they worked hard for the chance to win, and it was fun to follow them along the way. I can't wait to see what the next race brings. I hope all the contestants are new (no one from the first season). Well, except for maybe Pete and Shey, because it's so funny to watch them beep out Shey when she starts using colorful language ...LOL (top image courtesy of the History Channel)